On Saturday, former President Abdullah Gül drew a gloomy picture about the state of affairs in Turkey and declared he will not be a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections.
Gül did not deny he was involved in a series of contracts with the opposition leaders who wanted him to be their joint candidate in the elections to take on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the joint candidate of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the conservative Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
On the contrary, Gül said the conditions for him to become a candidate had not been created and thus he was not in the race. So given any opportunity Gül would have been too ready to challenge Erdoğan. This is at the heart of the matter.
It is clear that Gül has fallen apart with the Erdoğan camp and the AK Party that made him a president, a prime minister and a foreign minister.
So all the allegations by the opposition that the government was so concerned by Gül's candidacy that President Erdoğan sent his spokesman İbrahim Kalın and Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar are meaningless. Abdullah Gül has not been threatened or intimidated and thus has not changed his views that things are not going right in Turkey. Gül was a close friend of the president and thus it is only normal that Erdoğan did not wanted to lose a person who he fought with shoulder to shoulder against political adversaries.
The only reason why Gül could not challenge Erdoğan is the fact that the opposition is in total disarray.Meral Akşener's Good Party (İP) insists that Akşener will be the party's candidate for the presidential elections. Thus, they oppose a joint opposition candidate idea. İP Deputy Chairman Ümit Özdağ says, "Abdullah Gül was a project, he was imposed upon us by various power groups. They put pressure on us from all sides" and adds that the party rejected this. So Akşener opposed Gül's candidacy.
Besides that, a group within the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) also opposed Gül's candidacy. CHP maverick Muharrem İnce, who has a strong group of supporters in the party, declared his opposition to Gül's candidacy. He said when Gül was president supported by the AK Party he acted in harmony with the government, approved all the controversial laws brought to him, served Erdoğan well and thus was criticized by the party. The party also opposed Gül as president in 2007. Muharrem İnce also asked how the CHP can support Gül after all that has happened in the past.
So with a crack in the main opposition ranks and Akşener opposing Gül, it was impossible for the former president to challenge Erdoğan in any way.
Thus, Gül had no other alternative but to declare he is not in this race.
Would Gül have been a formidable adversary for Erdoğan? The answer is "no" because while Gül has been popular among the AK Party and other conservative masses he is not seen as a savior by many left-wing people and even by some nationalists who would support Akşener. The fact that AK Party people will not hesitate to vote for Erdoğan leaves Gül to depend on some meager conservative votes and some left-wing backing. That is not a recipe to win the presidential elections in Turkey.